Snoopy Electrocutes Woodstock and Laughs in First ‘Peanuts’ Trailer
When an all-new Peanuts movie was announced back in 2012, there were some concerns that Charles Schulz’s beloved creations might not make it to the big screen intact. In the 32 years since the last feature film (Bon Voyage Charlie Brown, And Don’t Come Back!!), and family-oriented animated movies based on nostalgia comic strip and cartoon properties have not always fared very well, often resorting to infantile humor (Marmaduke), absurd amounts of product placement (Transformers) or a combination of the two (The Smurfs).
So it was with great interest that the internet awoke today to the debut of the first full Peanuts trailer, shot in a pleasing CGI-animation style that looks not unlike a stop-motion animation version of the classic characters. The trailer (above) begins sweetly, with Woodstock sprucing up Snoopy’s doghouse for the holidays, and segueing into Snoopy’s World War I fighter pilot fantasy, battling the Red Baron over the Paris skyline. And for a moment, all seemed well with the world.
And then Snoopy woke up and electrocuted Woodstock for no good reason and laughed at the little bird’s pain. All Woodstock wanted to do was make Snoopy happy, and Snoopy tortured him for it. What in the unbelievable heck is THAT about?
We’re not outraged, we’re not saying this is the death of Peanuts, and we’re not accusing the makers of this movie of doing anything inappropriate to our childhood. But we are taking this opportunity to express concern that cheap, unprovoked violence has been inserted into the world of Peanuts, if only for this trailer, and that it feels out of place to us.
The world of Peanuts was a melancholy one, unafraid to tackle issues of depression and isolation in an environment seemingly aimed at children. The underlying implication was that kids experienced negativity as well as joy, and that they were also mature enough to handle a little bit of seriousness in their entertainment. But although a certain amount of slapstick did occasionally find its way into the Peanuts comics and TV specials and movies (in particular, we’re thinking of Snoopy sending Linus sliding into a tree in the beloved Christmas special), mean-spirited cruelty for the sake of a gag doesn’t really jibe with what Peanuts always seemed to be about.
This admittedly isolated moment in the new Peanuts trailer seems more appropriate to a “Robot Chicken” parody of Peanuts, less clever than their mashup of Peanuts and Misery but at least arguably on the same wavelength. Although we appreciate that the filmmakers – or at least the marketers – wanted to end their trailer on a simple “gag” to assure audiences that the new Peanuts film would be “funny,” and not just reverent, we think they simply went in the wrong direction, and we hope that the actual movie doesn’t resort to this kind of lame violence.
Violence has had a place in comedy since the very beginning, of course, and many plays, TV shows and films have used violence to hilarious effect. But shoehorning violence into Peanuts doesn’t strike us as a reasonable interpretation of Charles Schulz’s creations.
Again, we’re not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but if what looks like a molehill is actually a mountain in the far-off distance, it may be worthwhile to start this conversation now in case it becomes a more serious issue when the new Peanuts movie later this year.
What do you think? Does electrocuting Woodstock feel like Peanuts to you? Is there some precedent for Snoopy being physically violent to Woodstock that we’re forgetting about?